Attending to Stress! Take a Look Within

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BY SIMONE SMITH

Stress has always been something that many can relate to because we all feel it; unfortunately, many of us are unable to deal with this fact about life. We are all going to experience stress. We have to fully understand what it means and begin to see how it affects us as individuals. As an educational columnist, it is important that I understand my role to educate all aspects of life. The majority of our life lessons are not learned in the classroom; they are learned in our day to day experiences. It is these experiences which shape who we are and what we are going to become. The important thing to remember is that we are in control of a lot of what happens to us. It would be ridiculous to say that we are in control of everything; we know that is not true. What I am going to offer in my columns this year, are lessons on how to control our thoughts. Our thoughts contribute to stress; stress contributes to moods; moods contribute to behaviors (majority of those are unconscious) and our behaviors dictate our actions. If we are not fully aware of what is going on, this can lead to serious mental and physical issues.

Defining and Understanding Stress: Dr. Stephen Sinatra of Heart MD Institute defines stress as a measure of your mental and physical resistance to circumstances beyond your control. Some of these stresses include: threats to our life, demands placed on us by family, friends and our work, changes to which you attach special significant importance (death, loss of relationship, loss of a friendship, loss of a pet, loss of a job, loss of a child, etc.) and changes to which you may struggle or feel uncertainty (attending University for the first time; moving in with a boy/girlfriend for the first time; taking a job in another country; leaving a job to start your own business or live your dream).

It is not uncommon for me to speak to clients who are stressed and do not even realize that they are stressed. I want to take it a little deeper and identify the names of the different levels of stress that we are capable of feeling.

Eustress: This is short-term stress that encourages us to push ourselves a little harder. This is experienced by individuals who play sports and actors and actresses. It is that butterfly feeling in your stomach that usually disappears after you have completed a task.

Hypostress: I found this one the most interesting. This is an underload of stress; it happens when we start feeling anxious for not doing enough. This might be experienced by someone who is working in a group and they may not feel like they are offering enough to the group. The worry might be that they look bad to the other members of that group. This problem can be easily resolved when you take initiative and become more productive.

Hyperstress: This occurs when a person becomes loaded with too many tasks and responsibilities. We are unable to adapt to the changes or cope with all that is happening. This is the type of stress that is experienced by that person you call and they say, “I can’t today, I have so much work to get done.” Entrepreneurs, teachers and students are known to suffer from hyper stress.

Distress: This is the type of stress that can do the most damage. Distress arises when we lose control over a situation. The worst thing about it is that the source of the stress is usually unclear to you. It is related to anxiety; this fear, due to loss of control, causes us to suppress the real issues and we now have this vicious cycle of unclear thoughts and suppressed issues. It is important to understand how much our thoughts can contribute to stress and the escalation of conflict in our lives. Controlling our thoughts can be so hard to do. Here is a list of some of the thoughts that can cause damage to our psyche and spike the levels of stress that we are feeling: Irrational Thinking (this is an action or opinion given with lack of reason, and usually when someone is under emotional distress). Ineffectual Thinking (these are thoughts that are seen as having no effect, or are incompetent thoughts). Self-damaging thinking (negative thoughts about who you are). Self-damning (beating up on yourself after you have made a mistake). Wishful Thinking (“If I win the lottery, I swear life will be better.”). Intolerance (this is when you make the choice not to accept views, beliefs or behaviors that differ from our own).

I want the readers to understand that taking control of your life is the first step. I promise that I am going to do my best to assist you through this year. It will not be easy, but at least you know that there is someone who will be able to guide you through this journey that we call life.

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